Screaming inmates burnt to death in cells

2012-02-15 17:49

Tegucigalpa - Trapped inmates screamed from their cells as a fire swept through a Honduran prison, killing at least 350 inmates, authorities said on Wednesday.

Some 475 people escaped from the prison in the town of Comayagua and 356 are missing and presumed dead, said Hector Ivan Mejia, a spokesperson for the Honduras security ministry. He said 21 people had been injured.

Dozens were trapped behind bars as prison authorities tried to find the keys, officials said.

Outraged relatives of dead inmates tried to storm the gates of the prison to recover the remains of their loved ones, witnesses told The Associated Press. The crowds were driven back by police officers firing tear gas.

Channel 5 television showed dozens of inmates' relatives hurling rocks at officers.

"We want to see the body," said Juan Martinez, whose son was reported dead. "We'll be here until we get to do that."

Horrific scenes

Comayagua fire department spokesperson Josue Garcia said he saw "horrific" scenes while trying to put out the fire, saying inmates rioted in attempts to escape. He said "some 100 prisoners were burned to death or suffocated in their cells."

"We couldn't get them out because we didn't have the keys and couldn't find the guards who had them," Garcia said.

Officials are investigating whether the fire was triggered by rioting prisoners or by an electrical short circuit, said Danilo Orellana, head of the national prison system.

A prisoner identified as Silverio Aguilar told HRN Radio that someone started screaming, "Fire! fire!" and the prisoners called for help.

"For a while, nobody listened. But after a few minutes, which seemed like an eternity, a guard appeared with keys and let us out," he said.

Hundreds of relatives rushed to Santa Teresa Hospital in Comayagua state to learn the fate of their loved ones, said Leonel Silva, fire chief in Comayagua, a town 140km north of the Central American country's capital, Tegucigalpa.

Lucy Marder, chief of forensic medicine for the prosecutor's office, said 12 victims were treated there and nine more in the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, bringing the total of injured to 21. "That's why we think the death toll will rise," she said.

Marder said it would take at least three months to identify victims, some burned beyond recognition, because DNA tests will be required.

President Porfirio Lobo declared an emergency in July 2010 in nine of the 24 prisons in Honduras. His security minister at the time called the prisons "universities of crime" that had been overwhelmed by overcrowding.

  • Alex - 2012-02-15 18:19

    Lounging around in their cells playing silly gang games, what goes around...

      stefan.brink - 2012-02-15 18:26

      Is that how you dismiss the horrific and painful deaths of 350 people?

      aardvarkie - 2012-02-15 18:35

      Coming from a guy with a girls name that's pretty rich. Bet you scream like one too.

      Tooka - 2012-02-15 19:07

      If only it would happen in some of our prisons.

      Vastar - 2012-02-15 19:21

      Aardvarkie, if one of those criminals got hold of you you'd scream too. Alex screams from pleasure, you'd scream from pain, unless you are able to pass a log sideways when nature calls. Now crawl back into your hole...the one in the gorund that is; where an aardvark belongs.

  • Tokelo MediaOwner Fako - 2012-02-15 18:22

    I find it hard to believe that the keys were missing.. I am not buying this at all

  • Tokelo MediaOwner Fako - 2012-02-15 18:22

    I find it hard to believe that the keys were missing.. I am not buying this at all

  • Morama - 2012-02-15 18:26

    I so wish that those burned to their death are rapists and all those evil doers who keeps on tearing the families apart.

      JustMe - 2012-02-15 18:58

      Puts a new spin on the death penalty, doesn't it. It lessens me, but wouldn't mind if some of the animals in our prison would meet the same fate.

      Vastar - 2012-02-15 19:13

      Yeah Justme, child rapists, muti-murderers, brutal farm murderers and the lot...the smell of burning cretinous-human flesh would not at all bother me whilst quietly drinking on a nice ice cold beer...mmmmmm

      elewies - 2012-02-15 19:19

      And what if some of theme were in there for less evil crimes? I definitely don't think fraudsters, drug addicts or petty thieves deserve to die in a fire.

      Vastar - 2012-02-15 19:27

      No elewies, they don't deserve to die in that way. You are absolutely right.

  • Whitty - 2012-02-15 18:38

    This should be an eye opener to those who swore to terrorise others.

  • shawnholten - 2012-02-15 18:41

    where there's smoke...there's fire

      shawnholten - 2012-02-15 18:58

      Get it? that was a pun I used because the story was about fire and I said where there is smoke there is fire. haha

      Vastar - 2012-02-15 19:03

      I got Shawn. We got it Shawn. Most of us here are relatively sharp. You might only need to be worried about the Julius Malema supporters, they probably won't get it.

      lindz.kok - 2012-02-15 19:14

      ha ha ha vastar is right man, you have to dumb it down for certain members of our society a.k.a. jujuvites

  • lindz.kok - 2012-02-15 18:49

    i think criminals should be seperated acording to theyre offences, the murderers rapist and child molesters in one wing and the petty ofenders in the other. then im not opposed to "acsidental fires" breaking out in prisons on a regular basses.

      lindz.kok - 2012-02-15 19:12

      i see two rapist and/or murderers thumb downed me lmfao!!!!

      Tooka - 2012-02-15 19:20

      Maybe they were the petty offenders

      lindz.kok - 2012-02-15 19:27

      then they wont burn now will they? maybe just a little it will be like a slap on the wrist. the murderers child molesters and rapist will be cremated tho so no funeral costs for the heavely taxed public... well those that do pay taxes.

  • Ian - 2012-02-15 19:09

    It just sounds like some typical KGB or GESTAPO move to curb overcrowding I suppose all the fire extinguishers had all been taken out for servicing as-well

  • Burtfred - 2012-02-15 19:33

    The jailors were tasked with keeping offenders imprisoned and taking care of their human needs for the duration of their sentences. If prisoners die whilst in their care, jailors must be charged with at least culpable homicide, or more appropriately, murder.

      Vastar - 2012-02-15 19:59

      Burtfred, if a jail-bird stikes a match at 02:00am and sets the place ablaze; arson; who's to blame? Jail-birds hate the jailors, they hate the system, this is what they the blame on the innocent jailors.

  • Taetjo - 2012-02-15 19:50

    LOL! What goes around comes around...

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